Embracing Equity in the Public Service

By Anthony Joseph

As a Black person in Canada, navigating the public service has often felt like walking a tightrope. The path to success is fraught with challenges and obstacles, many of which stem from systemic racism and discrimination. However, recent developments have given us a glimmer of hope as the federal government takes a bold step towards addressing these longstanding issues.

Anthony Joseph

The federal government’s commitment to implementing the Action Plan for Black Public Servants is a monumental milestone in our journey toward equity and inclusivity. With an investment of nearly $50 million, the government is not only acknowledging the challenges faced by Black employees but is also taking concrete steps to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace for all.

The statistics paint a clear picture of the disparities that exist within the public service. During the 2021-22 fiscal year, only 4.2% of public service employees identified as Black, with an even smaller percentage (2.3%) at the executive level. These numbers are reflective of a larger issue of underrepresentation and discrimination that has plagued our community for far too long.

The Action Plan is a comprehensive and strategic approach to addressing these issues. By investing in initiatives such as the enhancement of the Employee Assistance Program, the launch of an executive leadership program for Black leaders, and the provision of individualized assessment and coaching services, the government is not only addressing the immediate needs of Black public servants but is also laying the groundwork for long-term change.

One of the key components of the Action Plan is the enhancement of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Health Canada is receiving nearly $6 million to introduce Black-centric enhancements to the EAP, ensuring culturally competent and trauma-informed mental health support for public servants and their families. This includes recruiting additional Black counsellors and providing training on anti-Black racism and culturally competent approaches to counselling.

The executive leadership program for Black leaders is another significant initiative. The Canada School of Public Service is receiving nearly $7 million to support the career advancement of Black employees at the EX-01, EX-02, or EX-03 levels. This program will provide leadership development, mentorship opportunities, and ongoing learning opportunities for Black executives.

Additionally, the Public Service Commission (PSC) is receiving funding to provide individualized assessment, counselling, and coaching services to Black public servants. The PSC will also collaborate with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) on a pilot project to improve career development opportunities for all levels of Black public servants.

Nicholas Marcus Thompson

These initiatives are not just about providing support; they are about recognizing the value and contributions of Black public servants. By creating opportunities for career advancement and improving mental health supports, the government is sending a clear message that it values diversity and is committed to creating a workplace where everyone can thrive.

The government’s actions are already yielding results. The Mentorship Plus Program and the Mosaic Leadership Development Program have shown promising outcomes, with a significant number of Black participants moving into executive positions. These programs, along with the new initiatives under the Action Plan, demonstrate the government’s commitment to creating a more inclusive public service.

As Black individuals, we have long been at the forefront of advocating for change within our workplaces. The federal government’s commitment to the Action Plan is a testament to the power of our voices and the importance of our experiences. It is a recognition of the unique challenges we face and a commitment to creating a more equitable and inclusive workplace for all.

The federal government’s commitment to its Black workers is a significant step forward in creating a more equitable and inclusive public service. By addressing the systemic racism that exists within the public service, the government is setting the stage for a more diverse and representative workforce. This commitment is not just about meeting quotas or ticking boxes; it is about creating a workplace that is truly reflective of the diversity of Canada. Together, we can continue to push for progress and create a future where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.